During Friday’s Democratic Weekly Address, Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA) touted the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act and criticized the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME, saying the decision is a vote “against every single hard-working American who fights every day just to make ends meet.”
Transcript as Follows:
“Hello, I’m Congressman Matt Cartwright.
It was with regret that I read the Supreme Court’s decision this week in the case called Janus v. AFSCME. This week, the U.S Supreme Court voted against every single hard-working American who fights every day just to make ends meet. Just to pay their bills. Just to support their families. Just to put away a little bit of money.
This week’s decision undermines the freedom of people who keep us safe. The first responders, corrections officers, police officers, snow plow drivers and firefighters, teachers, sanitation workers – all public service workers, public servants – who go out there every single day for you, for me, for our kids.
This 5-4 vote, this decision, undermines their very freedom to negotiate for decent pay and fair workplaces.
I represent Northeastern Pennsylvania, a place where the right to bargain collectively is time-honored. Back in 1902, this man — John Mitchell — a labor organizer, came to the area, and what he found was miners working all hours in terrible conditions and for meager pay. He also found that the workers were unable to join together because of ethnic differences.
And the mine owners played the ethnic differences against each other.
Somehow, and to his everlasting credit, Mitchell was able to get the workers to look past their differences, and get them to go out on strike together. They struck for higher wages, and shorter days, and together they put their very lives on the line. For six months they struck – and workers were left with absolutely nothing at the end.
After 163 days, the coal strike ended, and they went to arbitration.
Since none of us were around then, I want to share with you the words of this man, Clarence Darrow, who spoke for the workers.
He said this, ‘I have heard my clients, 147,000 working men who toil while other men grow rich, men who go down into the earth and face greater dangers then men who go out upon the sea, or out upon the land in battle, men who have little to hope for, little to think of excepting work. These are men… [who] demeaned themselves as nobly, as bravely, as loyally as any body of men who ever lived and suffered and died for the benefit of the generations that are yet to come.’
‘We are working for democracy,’ Darrow said, ‘For humanity, for the future, for the day that will come too late for us to see it or know it, or receive its benefits, but which will come, and will remember our struggles, our triumphs, our defeats, and the words we speak.’
That strike was successful. Something that never would have happened without John Mitchell and the United Mine Workers.
We revere John Mitchell in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and we honor his memory.
But this week, instead of honoring our American tradition of supporting labor unions, the Supreme Court’s ideological decision overturned a 40-year precedent. Forty years of the fabric of American law, torn up.
This decision enables free-riding by those who benefit from union agreements but don’t want to pay their fair share.
Let me be clear: Labor unions give workers a collective voice to regular people to gain better wages, better health care, and a better future with a secure retirement. Strong public unions built the middle class in our country and shaped the life of every American by negotiating worker rights.
But while Washington Republicans are rigging the rules against workers – in the Courts and the Congress – Democrats are fighting to deliver A Better Deal to working men and women. Now is not the time to turn back the clock on fair pay. Now is the time for us fight back.
That’s why yesterday afternoon, joined by Senator Hirono (D-HI), I proudly introduced the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act. Our bill reaffirms the right of every public sector employee to join a union and bargain collectively.
In the face of new attacks on workers, Democrats are advancing new solutions – building on the bold commitments of our economic agenda for America: giving workers the freedom to negotiate a Better Deal.
While the Supreme Court may have turned its back on American workers this week, Democrats in Congress have not. We stand with our union brothers & sisters.
Again, the words of Clarence Darrow: ‘We are working for democracy, for humanity, for the future.’
The future he was talking about is here, let’s work together, to preserve it together.”
Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett